From Prep School to Seminary: One Man’s Call to the Order

Josh LaPorte is a Postulant in Order. Here he answers questions about his childhood and vocation:

1) Tell us about your background? Where are you from? Where did you go to school?

Josh receives the shield of the Order.
Josh receives the shield of the Order.

I was born on July 18, 1989 in Suburban Detroit, in Sterling Heights, MI at Mt. Clemens General Hospital. I was adopted at birth. I grew up in the Sterling Heights area for the majority of my childhood until I was six years old when we moved to Rochester Hills, MI. We remained there for the rest of my life. We also have a vacation house in the north of Michigan.

My Father is a Certified Public Accountant working as a managing partner at an international firm called UHY advisors.  He has been working there since college.  My mother was and is still a homemaker.  Prior to her being a homemaker, she was a practicing Psychologist.

I discovered my love for music when I was three and a half years old. It was then that I picked up my first violin and begin studies in music.  I would find lots of success in that field of study, and pick up more instruments along the way, like percussion (drums, cymbals, etc.).  I would study these privately until the age of 17.

I entered Montessori when I was five in September 1994 at Kensington Academy. I would make my first communion in April of 1998.  I left Kensington Academy after completing the third grade in 1999.  I would then continue studies at a private fine and liberal arts school in Auburn Hills, Michigan called Oakland Steiner where I would complete the rest of elementary and middle school.  After that, I would be homeschooled for my freshman year of high school, and then complete the rest of my high school career at St. Mary’s Preparatory.

St Mary’s Prep School is strong Catholic Institution where I would begin discerning my vocation or exploring the possibilities of a vocation.  We attended Mass in high school twice a week, and sometimes three times a week if it was a holy day of obligation.  I would graduate there St Mary Preparatory School in May 2008. My crowning achievement was winning the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award.

After high school I started studies in philosophy at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Downtown Detroit. I remained there for 4 years until I finished discerning my call and entered the Mercedarian Friars.

2) When did you first start thinking about religious life and/or priesthood?

I started thinking of a vocation when I was a junior in High School during Mass.

The Shield was given to the Order by King James I 800 years ago.
The Shield was given to the Order by King James I 800 years ago.

3) How did you come to know about the Order of the BVM of Mercy? What drew you to this community?

I came to know about the Order of the BVM of Mercy and plenty of other orders through Vocation Placement Services on the internet. I was drawn to this community because of the way they live religious life and the Charism of order itself. The Mercedarians redeem those who are in captivity at risk of losing their faith.

4) Now that you are a postulant what is your favorite part of the Religious Life?

I enjoy as a postulant the community prayers, the common meal, and recreation time.

Is there Any Greater Captivity than the Taking of Innocent Life?

For 800 years, the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary has stood in defense of human dignity when it was threatened. Today, 1.3 million pre-born babies are killed in American per year! The blood of these children cries out for justice with a cry greater than that of Cain’s blood. We read in Genesis 4:10, “The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” NO ONE is free to ignore or silently tolerate the grave evil of abortion and it’s effects on our society.

Stephanie Gray,Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform

Knowing this Br. Daniel Bowen, O. de M., pro-life coordinator at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, organized a world renowned speaker to give a presentation at the Seminary.  Her name is Stephanie Gray and she is the Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.  She has spoken around the world on abortion and has debated abortionists, professor, and leaders in the abortion movement.  She has also spoken at various elementary, high schools and universities in North America.

Stephanie spoke to us about her work and how her organization is ending abortion in Canada through presentations and in the streets activism with abortion imagery.  Her talk at the seminary was extensively about her strategy on fighting abortion called the “Endthekilling” plan.  She also explained how to talk about abortion to others and the importance of knowledge, wisdom, and character when talking about the abortion issue.

She explained that in the past atrocities had been ended when the injustice was exposed, and the culture confronted by the injustice. As long as it remains hidden, people can ignore the horror of great atrocities such as slavery, the holocost, and race killings. Stephanie showed how images were used by abolitionists  and civil rights leaders to shake people out of their apathy. The audience “gasped” when they saw a picture of a young black boy brutally beaten in the deep South out of hatred for his race. This horrific image was disseminated throughout the United States in the 1950’s. It was this image, which Rosa Parks was thinking of when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in  Montgomery, Alabama.

We were so glad that she could take time out of her busy schedule to talk to the seminarians and laity, and to show us how to end the genocide of abortion.  The pre-born child is the most helpless person in our society, captive to the will of others, completely unable to receive the Sacraments of the Church.  We must work so that all children have equal protection in our society and we pray to St. Raymond Nonnatus, patron of pre-born children, that abortion is ended and for the repose of the souls of the fifty million children legally killed in the United States.

St. Raymond Nonnatus (not born) pray for us!

Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform

A Mercedarian from the United States joins friars from all over the World at the Vatican

Fr. Justin Freeman, O. de M. joined several Mercedarian friars from over the world at a continuing formation week in Rome. Here is an interview with Fr. Justin on his experience:


The Master General and the other friars stand inside Vatican square.

1) So, Fr Justin you are a Mercedarian Friar. Can you tell us about your apostolate in the Vicariate? How is this fulfilling your 4th vow?

I serve as Catholic chaplain of MetroHealth Medical Center, a large inner-city hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. MetroHealth is the “safety-net” hospital for Cuyahoga County, serving the needs of residents who otherwise lack access to healthcare. Serving as a chaplain in a healthcare setting allows me to live the fourth vow in a very concrete manner. Everyday I “visit” and seek to bring “redemption to those Christians who are in danger of losing their faith” because of their health problems.

2) What was the great experience that you have had over the past few weeks?

From 2 September to 22 September, I participated in the General Government’s Continuing Formation Course. The course was held at the Istituto Maria Santissima Bambina right across St. Peter’s Basilica. The course had 18 friars from about a dozen countries. Four language groups were represented.


After Mass, the friars pose for a picture in front of St. Peter Nolasco inside St. Peter’s Basilica

3) What sort of programs/experiences did you have during your time in Rome?

I and the other friars explored Rome during our free time. We saw the sights of Rome. After the course was over, an Indian friar and I went to the Order’s famous shrine on the island of Sardinia–Our Lady of Bonaria. We got to witness the universality of the Church by attending a Papal Audience. After the Papal Audience, people from around the world approached us to have their pictures taken with us.

The Novitiate Set to Begin on the Feast of the Holy Redeemer

Two young men prepare for their next step in their journey toward becoming Mercedarian Friars.

Scott is measured for the Habit of Mary

On August 29th, Postulants, Vincent and Scott, began their initial formation in the Order of the BVM of Mercy. They were just answering the Lord’s call to “come and see”. Over the next 9 months they would live in the Order’s House of Studies and experience the Mercedarian religious life. Vincent and Scott followed the house horarium or schedule. The horarium helps religious to live a rythem of prayer, communal meals, work, and recreation. The postulant often finds in the schedule a sense of peace and joy that comes from communion with God and others.

The postulancy program also offers the candidate an opportunity to study the Catholic faith and apply it. Each week, Vincent and Scott, attended a class at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. Also, twice a week they received further formation from the Master of Postulants. These classes were in human formation, Spiritual Theology, the virtues, and Mariology. Besides their classes, Vince and Scott, spent four days a week getting apostolic experience at Lankenau Hospital, Saunders House Nursing Home, and Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School.

Vince is measured for the Habit of Mary.

Now after 9 months of experiencing the religious life, Vince and Scott are preparing themselves to begin a very important year, the Novitiate. The Novitiate is the opportunity for a young man to “Come and Live” the life of a religious. It is a canonical year from July 8th to July 9th of the following year. Under the direction of the Master of Novices, the novice will study the history of religious life, the vows, the Rule of Saint Augustine, the documents of the Church concerning religious life, the Mercedarian Order, and it’s saints. During this time, the novice will also become more aware of the customs and traditions of the Order, in particular, those associated with Our Blessed Mother who is honored as the foundress of the Order.

Vince and Scott’s next step in formation begins July the 8th 2012 when they are invested in the “Habit of Mary”. No doubt this will be an exciting moment for each of them, but the real journey has just begun! Now they must impress Mary’s “image as a seal upon their hearts, so that nothing may be in their mouths, minds or conduct that does not breathe love for the Virgin Mary (Const. #154).” The habit is to be the outward sign of their future consecration.

Please keep both Vincent and Scott in your prayers as they begin the novitiate this July 8th.

HABEMUS PROVINCIALUM (We have a Provincial!!)

June 8, 2012: Today we prayed and then elected a new provincial and council for the next 3 years.

The morning was dedicated to reflection and prayer, with the help of the meditation given by Fr. Ugo Mesini, SJ. The Mass of the Holy Spirit was concelebrated in the shrine of the Crucifix at 12pm.

Here Fr Franco plays the organ, but he will not have much time for this the next 3 years.

In the afternoon, beginning with the ritual prayer, we began the process of voting for the Provincial and his counselors among the candidates that resulted from the ballots opened the previous evening.

Fr. Francesco Podda was elected and he accepted and was confirmed by Father General.

After making his profession of faith he received the congratulations of the capitulars.

Fr. General then gave the capitulars an hour pause to rest and reflect before the election of the counselors.

At 5:45, with the reading and approval of the minutes of the previous day, we continued with the election of the Provincial Counselors. The vote resulted with the following being elected.

Fr. Eugenio Caramia
Fr. Nunzio Masiello
Fr. Efisio Schirru
Fr. Giuseppe Celano
We concluded with the ritual prayers and promises in the shrine.

Thanks you for your prayers. Continue to pray. The work of the chapter has not ended, and the work of the triennium has yet to begin.

Holy Week at the Order’s Basilica dedicated to Our Lady of Bonaria

In this installment of “A Mercedarian Journel From Rome” Deacon Scottston tells us of his experience of spending Holy Week in the Order’s famous Shrine to Our Lady of Bonaria.

Holy Thursday

Just a quick update from the Eternal City. Today we returned to class after our Easter break… and I can honestly say I was not ready to go back, but we do what we must.

As for Holy Week, I spent it in Sardinia at our Shrine of Bonaria (which as you remember we have had since 1334). Every Mass was full – standing room only – but it was a wonderful experience spending the Triduum with our community there.

Palm Sunday had a beautiful procession, and the youth performed a Passion play that was very well orchestrated.

Holy Thursday and Good Friday were spent with Archbishop Pier Giuliano Tiddia of Oristano…as well as the Vigil. I must admit, the most moving celebration was Holy Thursday… and nothing quite compares to sitting there in layers of antiquated grandeur (gold thread is heavy btw), with the central doors of the basilica open…. overlooking a sea of faces….and watching the ships move through the harbor as they enter the Mediterranean….all while listening to ancient Latin hymns sung in a most excellent fashion by a talented choir……… definitely makes a ceremony seem like a dream……

Veneration of the Cross

Good Friday was enveloped in clouds – a fitting ambiance – and the ceremony was particularly moving given that the Cross used for the veneration was practically life sized, and the Corpus was (in that lighting) rather authentic looking. An interesting tradition here is the presentation of Our Lady of Sorrows to the Crucified Christ after the veneration by the people.

The Vigil went well as did the celebrations for Easter Sunday. After the morning Masses, there was another “meeting” of the Blessed Mother, but this time with the Risen Christ that was VERY well attended.

Before returning to Rome I accompanied the Provincial to visit our community in Alghero. I was there two days before returning to Cagliari, and the next day returned to Rome. The day after my arrival I attended the Priestly Ordination of a Jesuit classmate at the Church of the Gesu, and afterwards was taken to the rooms used by St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits) and ultimately where he died. After a day of “rest” (Sunday), we returned to classes.

The Risen Lord meets Our Lady

All of those were great experiences, even if they left me tired before returning to class. I am truly thankful for the graces of this Easter Season, and I pray you are experiencing the same.

I’ll be in touch. -Deacon Scottston-


Santuario Nostra Signora di Bonaria

Two Friars Approved for Solemn Vows.

On Wednesday, April 6th, 2011 the Provincial Council approved Br. James Chia and Br Scott Brentwood for Solemn Vows. It has been a long journey for these two men from vastly different worlds.

Br James grew up in Malaysia, an independent country in Southeast Asia.  This country, still close to Br James’ heart, is very diverse. Besides the native Malays there are many other ethnic groups including Chinese and even some Europeans.  The religious beliefs are even more diverse. According to the Population and Housing Census 2000 figures,  approximately 60.4% of the population practiced Islam of which only the Sunni branch is allowed; 19.2% Buddhism; 9.1% Christianity; 6.3% Hinduism; and 2.6% practice Confucianism, Taoism and other traditional Chinese religions. The remainder was accounted for by other faiths, including animism, folk religion, and Sikhism while 0.8% either reported having no religion or did not provide any information. Despite all these differences of belief, Br James grew up in a devote Catholic family that emphasized hard work, honesty, and especially devotion to their Catholic faith.  Br James will often be seen at work or helping others.

Br Scott and Br James as Novices with the late Fr Marino.

Br Scott, on the other hand, grew up in the United States. He and his family are from Southwest Virginia. He attended Carroll County High School in rural Hillsville, VA. Much of that area of the state is Protestant, yet Br Scott found the fullness of truth in the Catholic faith. After graduating High School in 2000, Br Scott went on to obtain bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Philosophy from Old Dominion University. Br. Scott is known for his intelligence and wit. He is always interested in having a good conversation about political science or religion or any number of topics. Br Scott is, also, always open to using his knowledge and talents to aide those in need.

As providence would have it, these two vastly different men were inspired to join the Order as postulants in August 2004. Living at the Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy, they learned the basic tenants of our Catholic faith and how to live in community. Now after 7 years of formation, Br James and Br Scott are preparing to make their definitive consecration to God in the Order. Sometime this summer, they will together prostrate before the altar as a sign of their total submission to God. Then, they will kneel before the Major Superior and make vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and the fourth vow of redemption.

We congratulate Br James and Br Scott on being approved for Solemn vows. May the Lord who has begun this good work in you bring it to completion.


Ancient Order of Friars Sees Vitality in U.S.

In an ornate church west of Philadelphia, a tiny bell rings and three robed men file in and walk towards the sanctuary. In the pews, a congregation of white-robed men and also local parishioners rise, and begin chanting in an ancient, almost never-heard language.

Three Mercedarian men
Mercedarians wear white

“Tota pulchra es Maria,” the group intones in Latin, or “O fairest Virgin Mary.” The men are brothers and priests of the Order of Mercy, and the group boasts of a good number of young faces.

“It’s encouraging to find that this ancient order is attracting men today. The traditions of chant, common prayer, and evangelistic outreach is very appealing today,” said Fr. Joseph Eddy, 33, who has been the group’s vocation director, or recruiter, for the past year for the order.

Known formally as The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, the U.S. vicariate of the group, which covers the entire country, boasts of ten men in formation against a backdrop of 22 solemnly professed friars. “That’s a healthy sign,” Fr. Joseph said. “The older orders such as ours tend to struggle to get vocations. God is blessing us with these new men, and we look toward a grace-filled future.”

The order’s friars, which consist of brothers and priests, wear crisp white habits, pray the Divine Office together, and live a community life based on the Rule of St Augustine. The men teach in schools, administer parishes, and do other work.

No wonder the order is doing well. Traditional groups tend to be those that are attracting vocations today, according to a 2009 study by the well-respected Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.

The Order of Mercy, also known as the Mercedarians, has its U.S. motherhouse in Philadelphia. The Salve can be heard on their popular YouTube channel. Or visit the Facebook page of Fr-Joseph Thomas Eddy.

(Feb. 14, 2011)